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NM Magazine wild horses

Placitas wild horses grace cover of New Mexico Magazine

Across the rolling foothills of the Sandias, wild horses have run free, attracting the admiration of artists, conservationists, and wildlife enthusiasts. These noble horses, from the Placitas wild horse habitat, will be gracing the cover of the March issue of New Mexico Magazine. The cover story is titled “Southwest Safari: Wild Horse Sanctuary,” and features the photography of Corrales fine artist Lynne Pomeranz.

Lynne is the author of the photo essay book Among Wild Horses. She is a well-known wild horse activist whose photographic works are represented in galleries, private collections, and public spaces throughout the Southwest. Lynne presents her work as fine art with a message: “Wild horses in the West are being gathered and removed from public lands at an alarming rate. In viewing my images, I want people to see the physical beauty, complex social dynamics, and strong emotional bonds that make these horses so special, and be inspired to act on their behalf.”

Lynne is a supporter of the Wild Horse Observers Association, a non-profit corporation based in Placitas that advocates for the establishment of a Placitas wild horse sanctuary on land currently managed by the BLM.

Lynne also leads popular wild horse photography workshops that attract clients from across the United States. She says about her Placitas workshops, “The sage-dotted mesas under the famous New Mexico sky make a dramatic backdrop for these pretty little bands of paints, grays, blacks, and bays. This habitat provides an excellent opportunity to closely observe and photograph the intimate interaction of family bands.”

Pomeranz will be celebrating her New Mexico Magazine cover as a featured artist in the gallery show “Horsescapes: An Exhibition of the Horse as Art“ at the Factory 5 Gallery, located at 1715 5th Street in Albuquerque. The show will open with an artist’s reception from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, February 26, and will continue through Friday, March 19. Joining Lynne will be fellow New Mexican artists McCreery Jordan and Star Liana York.


Flash in the Pan

Seed Catalog Strategy

—Ari LeVaux

In his book Jaguars Ripped my Flesh, Tim Cahill states, “I am a man who sits around at home reading wilderness survival books the way some people peruse seed catalogs or accounts of classic chess games.”

As a seed catalog peruser, I at first took offense at being lumped in with the chess nerds. But after giving it some thought, I realized that both gardening and chess, like wilderness survival, are strategic disciplines linked to the human journey from slime to the top of the food chain.

Situations requiring war—of which chess is an abstraction—and wilderness survival are arguably better avoided than engaged, but gardening remains an outgrowth of evolutionary necessity you can truly enjoy.

This time of year, it pays to think many moves ahead and consider what you hope to accomplish, food-wise, by the end of the growing season. How many quarts of pickles do you want to put up? Which vegetables do you want to store blanched and frozen in the freezer? What do you want to eat next summer?

Not all of this food need be grown in the garden. We’re not brave pioneers eking out a living on the harsh frontier. Hitting the farmers‘ market, coffee in hand, is one of the joys of community living, while patronizing retail stores that support local farmers is not only convenient, it’s an important contribution to the local economy.

My food plan includes growing what I want on-hand for immediate use and what I can’t find elsewhere. I go for a diverse garden that’s more broad than deep, which allows me to run outside on a whim and pick all the ingredients I need for a meal. But for my long-term storage needs, I expect to rely on some professional help.

The only crops I grow in quantity are garlic—because I’m a snob and I can usually grow bigger and better bulbs than what I can buy—and shallots, which are like extra-strong onions and awesome for cooking, and ridiculously expensive to buy.

The other crops in my garden are “experimentals,” new-fangled crops or obscure heirlooms that haven’t become popular enough to buy. Last year, I played around with Mango Melon, a small, oblong melon that tastes like an extra-sweet cucumber. They were OK, but kind of neither here nor there, and didn’t find a place in my kitchen after the novelty wore off. One experimental I was impressed with, and that I’ll be planting again, is a variety of purple carrot called Purple Haze. In addition to their striking dark purple skin and bright orange interiors, they grew large and uniform in my soil while others didn’t, and had a strong, sweet flavor.

It can be challenging to contain yourself when faced with a seed catalog, because the temptation to order a whole farm’s worth of seeds is great. Be wary of buying seeds that need to be started indoors and then transplanted. It may seem like a great savings—you can get a whole packet of tomato seeds for the price of one baby tomato plant—but after years of trying to raise my own seedlings, I’ve decided to leave that to the experts. There are all kinds of “hidden costs” in gear and supplies, and it’s likely your tomato starts will look like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. So I get my starts from farmers, either farmer friends or at the market. My only exceptions to this rule are shallots, which I think grow much better from seeds than sets (sets are mini-shallot bulbs), and the occasional experimental—some cool-looking tomato, pepper, okra, or melon that I really want to try, but don’t think anyone will be selling starts to grow.

There are plenty of seed catalogs out there to choose from. Space won’t allow me to describe all the worthy ones, but here are my top three:

Johnny’s (johnnyseeds.com) is a tight company that’s pulling ahead of the pack thanks to an ambitious breeding and testing program, a catalog loaded with photos and cultivation information, and lightning turnaround. The Fedco catalog (fedcoseeds.com) is also worth a look. It reminds me of a modern day Whole Earth Catalog with whimsical drawings, folksy wisdom, and information-rich commentary on the current state of farming and the world. And Fedco’s seed selection is solid. Seed Savers Exchange (seedsavers.org) is dedicated exclusively to the worthy goal of preserving heirloom seed varieties, and is worth considering if you want to play around with some old-school plants. Seed Savers’ tomato selection is especially impressive and intriguing.

Honorable mentions in the crowded field of quality seed companies include High Mowing Organic Seeds, Seeds of Change, Jung’s, Territorial, Peaceful Valley, and R.H. Shumway’s.  

This year, in addition to ordering my usual spinach, peas, squash, radish, beets, kale, lettuce, corn, basil, cucumber, and melon seeds, I’m going to experiment with Indigo radicchio, Winter Density romaine, Keystone endive, and Purple Pak carrots, all direct-seeded (that is, sown directly into the garden). I’ll also be ordering seed for Ambition red shallots and Saffron yellow shallots, which will probably be the only plants I start indoors unless I get off my ass and build a greenhouse.

I’ll sow the shallot seeds evenly in non-celled trays in February, as I would with onions, and keep them near a window. When they grow to five inches, I’ll cut them down to two inches with scissors, which will cause them to fill out in girth. I’ll do this every time they hit five inches, and transplant them in April or May.

My seed order may not teach me how to amputate a limb caught by a falling rock, or help me lead an army into battle, and that’s OK. This kind of armchair strategizing will help me eat well all summer long, and keep me in shallots through the winter. And that’s good enough for me.

Ari LeVaux lives in Placitas where he writes his nationally syndicated column Flash in the Pan.


Haiti Earthquake

EarthTalk®

—From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are the primary environmental concerns in the aftermath of the big earthquake in Haiti? —Frank Dover, Portland, OR

As would be the case after any natural disaster, water-borne illness could run rampant and chemicals and oil could leak out of damaged storage facilities as a result of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ripped apart Haiti on January 12. Surprisingly, no large industrial spills have been found during initial post-quake rescue efforts, but of course the focus has been on saving human lives and restoring civil order.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the biggest issue is the building waste; some forty to fifty percent of the buildings fell in Port-au-Prince and nearby towns. “Thousands of buildings suddenly become debris and this overwhelms the capacity of waste management,” says UNEP’s Muralee Thummarukudy, who is directing efforts to collect the waste for use in reconstruction projects.

Even before the quake, Haiti had major environmental problems. Intensive logging beginning in the 1950s reduced Haiti’s forest cover from sixty percent to less than two percent today. This lack of trees causes huge soil erosion problems, threatening both food and clean water sources for throngs of hungry and thirsty people. “If you have forest cover, when heavy rain takes place, it doesn’t erode the land,” UNEP’s Asif Zaidi reports. “It doesn’t result in flash floods.” He adds that, due to its lack of forest cover, Haiti suffers much more during hurricanes than does the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Compounding these ecological insults is Haiti’s fast growing population, now 9.7 million and growing by 2.5 percent per year. This has pushed millions of Haitians into marginal areas like floodplains and onto land that could otherwise be used profitably. “Most fertile land areas are often used for slums, while hillsides and steep landscapes are used for agriculture,” reports USAID’s Beth Cypser. The resulting sanitation problems have stepped up cases of dysentery, malaria, and drug-resistant tuberculosis among Haiti’s poverty-stricken population. Trash-filled beaches, smelly waterways, swarms of dead fish and tons of floating debris stand testament to Haiti’s water pollution problems—now exacerbated by the earthquake.

“We need to…create mechanisms that reinforce better use of natural resources,” says UNEP’s Zaidi. Prior to the quake, UNEP had committed to a two-year project to restore Haiti’s forests, coral reefs, and other natural systems compromised by the island’s economic problems. Providing access to propane to encourage a shift from charcoal-burning stoves is an immediate goal. Longer term, UNEP hopes the program will help kick-start reforestation efforts and investments in renewable energy infrastructure there.

Perhaps the silver lining of the earthquake in Haiti is the fact that millions of people around the world now know about the plight of the country’s people and environment, and donations have started to pour in. Anyone interested in helping relief efforts in Haiti can send a text message triggering a small donation to the American Red Cross (text “HAITI” to 90999 and $10 will be donated and added to your next phone bill). Those concerned about clean water specifically should donate to World Water Relief, a non-profit focusing on the installation of water filtration systems in Haiti and other distressed areas of the world.


Fruit Basket

Santa Fe County Extension hosts annual fruit growers’ workshop

—Jane Moorman

New Mexico fruit growers will meet at the annual Fruit Growers’ Workshop on Thursday, February 4, at the Santa Fe County Extension complex, 3229 Rodeo Road in Santa Fe. Registration will be at 8:00 a.m., with the welcome and opening remarks by Ed Costanza, president of the New Mexico Apple Council, at 8:30 a.m.

The free event is sponsored by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, the New Mexico Apple Council, and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Marketing and Development Division.

The morning sessions will feature orchard floor management from two perspectives—pest management and soil fertility. Tess Grasswitz, Extension urban and small-farm integrated pest management specialist at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas, and Robert Flynn, Extension agronomist at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center in Artesia, will discuss the aspects of ground cover from their specialty areas.

Natalie Goldberg, Extension plant pathologist with NMSU’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic, will discuss Jonathan Spot and other fruit diseases. Carol Sutherland, Extension entomologist with the plant diagnostic clinic, will give an update on insect pests and available controls to deal with these insects.

Del Jimenez, Extension agriculture specialist at NMSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, will talk about high tunnels for fruit production.

Ron Walser, Extension urban small farm specialist at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center in Los Lunas, will talk about alternative fruit varieties for New Mexico. Richard Heerema, Extension pecan specialist, will discuss nuts that will grow in Northern New Mexico’s climate.

The New Mexico Apple Council will hold a meeting following the presentations.

To register for the workshop, contact Patrick Torres by email at patorres@nmsu.edu or by phone at (505) 471-4711. Lunch will be provided by the New Mexico Apple Council.


A cheer for Interior Secretary Salazar’s new approach

—Thomas Power, Writers on the Range

As an economist, it startles me when representatives of the business community ignore basic economic relationships such as supply and demand. Yet oil and gas interests have been doing exactly that recently.

It is hard to believe that there is anyone in the country who does not know that we are in a deep recession. It has dramatically cut the demand for and, therefore, the price of most basic raw materials, especially energy. But the oil and gas industry keeps pretending that this has not happened and instead has been blaming Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for the decline in the leasing of and drilling on federally owned lands and the resulting job losses.

Oil and gas firms know better. Randy Teeuwen, spokesman for EnCana, North America’s largest oil and gas producer, characterized the current slowdown in drilling more accurately this past spring. He told the Pinedale Roundup in Wyoming that “We’re like most industries right now — banking, finance, auto industry, real estate. All the economic sectors are experiencing some downturn, and are sort of at the mercy of the national economy and the local economy.”

In June, EnCana announced that it would shut down large numbers of its producing natural gas wells in Canada and the United States until natural gas prices rose again. Other natural gas companies have done the same, as have most coal companies.

So it makes no sense to blame Secretary Salazar for the decline in interest in new federal oil and gas leasing. Blame the recession for causing the prices of oil, natural gas, and coal to tumble dramatically, by 40 to 70 percent between the summer of 2008 and the summer and fall of 2009. That is why there has been less enthusiasm among companies for leasing more federal lands for oil and gas development.

It is also why only 3,267 wells were drilled last year, even though the Obama administration’s BLM issued 4,487 drilling permits. Access to leases is simply not an issue these days for the oil and gas industry.  Nationwide, over 65 percent of the on-shore oil and gas leases that industry held in 2008 were not being developed. These undeveloped leases cover a huge amount of land that’s mostly in the West -- over 32.5 million acres.

On Jan. 6, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar introduced a new set of onshore oil and gas lease reforms, arguing that they will provide more economic certainty for the industry and increased savings for the taxpayer. Going slower, according to Salazar, will reduce the likelihood of legal battles. Only 1 percent of oil and gas leases were protested in 1998, he said, as opposed to 40 percent in 2008. Fewer protests  mean fewer costs for the American taxpayer, because less  money ends up going to help resolve  protests and lawsuits.  Reform will also provide more certainty for the industry, as companies will not end up bidding on leases that then turn out to be inaccessible due to unresolved protests.

Yet for some reason, we continue to hear industry arguing that reform of leasing policy will curb development of domestic resources.

Secretary Salazar has an enormous responsibility over the management of our public lands and our need for energy development. The current slowdown in oil and gas drilling is an opportune time to find the right balance between our need for fossil fuels, our continued development of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and the long-term health and safety of our air, water and wildlife.

As Salazar recently put it, “Trade groups for the oil and gas industry need to understand they don’t own the public lands.  Taxpayers do.”

He is right, and he needs to work to strike the right balance. After eight years of an energy policy highlighted by a tilt toward industry and an historic lack of oversight, it is perhaps understandable that oil and gas companies now resist a more balanced approach.  Our nation is better served by a measured approach that reduces the boom-and-bust extremes the West has suffered through in the past. That’s especially true for those communities where resource extraction is occurring.

Thomas Power is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He has been an economics professor at the University of Montana for 40 years and is the author of six books on natural resource economics.

 

     

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